Premenstrual syndrome is a real medical condition that affects about 40 percent of all women in their reproductive years. While the media has made women more aware of the cyclical changes they experience monthly, it has also passed on a lot of negative misinformation.
To add to the confusion, the medical profession itself has lagged behind in recognizing PMS as a real biochemical hormonal disorder that causes both physical and emotional symptoms. The very idea of a physically based problem causing emotional symptoms is still alien to a lot of doctors. Some doctors deny that PMS exists all. Others treat it as a disease and medicate women with tranquilizers, water pills or hormones. Others are just baffled or misinformed about the whole topic.
This is not surprising since nothing was taught in medical school on the subject. And traditionally, women's complaints about the premenstrual time have been viewed as either psychological that is, "all in your head" or part of the biological destiny of women.
Women themselves may have difficulty admitting they have PMS for fear of compromising their struggle for equality in the workplace. But denying symptoms of PMS, which are very real, is no service to women either.
Fortunately, more and more doctors are now educating themselves about PMS. However, more research is needed into both the causes and treatment of PMS.
Nonetheless, there is a lot we do know and a lot that can be done to alleviate or even eliminate the symptoms of PMS.
How Many Women Have PMS ?
Unfortunately, women who do not have true PMS have been lumped together with women who have premenstrual symptoms which do not bother them all that much nor affect their day-to-day functioning. In fact, 90 percent of women in the reproductive age group experience premenstrual symptoms of some sort. Ten percent of women will experience no symptoms at all.
Of this 90 percent group, half will experience mild premenstrual symptoms, such as breast tenderness, bloating, food cravings, irritability and mood swings, which alert them that their period is approaching.
In this group of women, premenstrual symptoms are the natural, outward signs of the remarkable fluctuations in hormone levels that a woman undergoes every month when she menstruates (even after a hysterectomy if her ovaries are still in place).
The other half of this group will suffer from PMS symptoms that are serious enough to interfere with their lives. Of this group an estimated five to 12 percent will experience severe, incapacitating PMS.
In modern times, women have had to deal with a lot more periods in their lifetimes than women did in the past. This is because women today spend less time being pregnant. In recent years, women have also experienced a radical change in their diet, environment, stress levels, career and family expectations. It stands to reason that the accumulated effect of all these factors might alter the basic hormonal cycle of women.
What Is PMS ?
True premenstrual syndrome refers to the whole 45 percent group of women whose PMS has a negative impact on their lives. PMS can be defined as that cluster of physical and emotional symptoms that occur one to 14 days before the period, that significantly interfere with a woman's interpersonal relationships and daily activities, and that disappear at or during menstruation.
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